Who To Watch At The IAAF World Championships
This month, the London Stadium stages its biggest event since the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. And like that epic occasion, the world’s top athletes gather in the capital for the IAAF World Championships 2017 (4-13 Aug), competing in more than 20 track and field events. It brings together more than 3,300 sporting stars across 10 days of thrilling competition.
The magnificent stadium, built especially for the 2012 Games, has since hosted the annual Anniversary Games. Last month the prestigious IPC World Para Athletics Championships 2017 took place here, which drew capacity crowds. It’s the first time that both these tournaments have been held in the same city.
Now we are welcoming back leading athletes – including Usain Bolt, Mo Farah, David Rudisha and Caster Semenya – with events from the 100m sprint to the hammer throw and heptathlon. World medals and glory are at stake once again.
When tickets went on sale last August, more than a million were requested, which is a record for this event. But despite the relatively high prices, a series of schemes were launched to encourage local schoolchildren to attend – such as a ‘Bolt ticket’ costing £9.58, in recognition of the Jamaican sprinter’s record-breaking time of 9.58 seconds.
A packed stadium for every session is good news for competitors and organisers – but challenging for visitors hoping to grab a ticket. The best bet, according to organisers, is to visit the official ticketing site, where fans can post unwanted tickets. Failing that, look out for live action on big screens dotted around the city.
From Big Guns To Young Hotshots
Two global legends from the track hang up their spikes this month: the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and British middle-distance king Mo Farah. They have amassed a total of 13 Olympic gold medals and countless world championships and world records between them, so their retirements are going to leave a gaping hole in the athletic world. As iconic superstars, they also have their own signature victory poses: Bolt’s lightning bolt, and Farah’s ‘mobot’. It is an honour that both these sporting superstars have chosen these London championships to end their spectacular careers. And although we say goodbye to these two megastars of the track, there are plenty of young athletes who are set to make an impact in the future. Here is our pick of some of the best young British stars.
Adam Gemili (age 23)
Sport: 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay
We watched in anguish when Gemili missed out on a 200m bronze medal in the Rio Olympics by an agonising three-thousandths of a second. But the Londoner is bouncing back and has been training hard at his new base in Holland. The British sprinting team is strong, so making the finals isn’t a foregone conclusion.
He says: ‘Mentally I always believe I’m going to win every race I go into. And he [Usain Bolt] is beatable. He’s been beaten before. He has to be having a bit of an off-day but it’s doable.’
They say: ‘He’s come a long way since he first burst on to the scene at the junior championships in Barcelona – as an 18-year-old fresh out of Chelsea Football Club’s Academy.’ (ITV Sport)
Dina Asher-Smith (age 21)
Sport: 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay
Although the London-born sprinter suffered a foot injury during training in February, and returning to fitness has been challenging, she is desperate to make an impact in front of her home crowd. The fastest female sprinter in British history, Asher-Smith holds records for the 100m and 200m, plus a 2016 Olympic bronze in the 4x100m relay.
She says: ‘I am biased but it [the London World Championships] is honestly the best Diamond League. It is like being at a major championships, with the way you are taken to the stadium and the call room – it is reminiscent of the Olympics.’
They say: ‘A clear run free of injuries should edge her closer to the podium in either the 100m or 200m.’ (The Guardian)
Zharnel Hughes (age 22)
Sport: 100m, 200m, 400m
The Anguilla-born sprinter, who used to train with Usain Bolt, made his name at school when he beat the college record set by Yohan Blake. Hughes missed the Rio Olympics through injury, but vows to get good results in these championships.
He says: ‘The 2015 Beijing World Championships was an awesome highlight for me. I was the youngest in the field so to finish fifth in my first world champs was amazing and strange at the same time.’
They say: ‘He’s an athlete likened to Bolt, with a stride as long and languid as that of the world’s fastest man.’ (London Evening Standard)
Katarina Johnson-Thompson (age 24)
After disappointing results in the Rio Olympics, and further injury this year, the athlete is now looking upbeat, having changed her coach and her base – she now lives in France. A decent podium finish is likely this time, especially since Jessica ‘golden girl’ Ennis-Hill retired after Rio.
She says: ‘I’m not injured, I’m out there and enjoying it and not worrying about my body falling apart.’
They say: ‘Everybody knows the potential Kat has, she’s an amazing athlete with a very good work ethic, and with a smile like that we can have a very good progression.’ (coach, Bertrand Valcin)
Laura Muir (age 24)
Sport: 1,500m, 3,000m, 5,000m
The quietly spoken Scot is seen as a hot property in world athletics, especially after a good start to 2017. In March’s European Indoor Athletics Championships in Belgrade, she won gold in the 1,500m and 3,000m. The UK Athletics performance director, Neil Black, said she was a once-in-a-generation athlete.
She says: ‘I just wanted to run a quick race. I never envisaged breaking the British record!’
They say: ‘Maybe we didn’t always know that she would achieve what she has done, but her attitude was always so hardworking and so dedicated. She is an absolute inspiration.’ (ex-school PE teacher, Elaine Page)
Mo Farah – Middle-distance king
The slender, Somalia-born Mo Farah – or to give him his correct name, Sir Mohamed Muktar Jama Farah – has won the hearts of the world. More significantly, he has been the toast of British sport, ever since draping himself with a huge Union Jack flag after a packed stadium crowd of 80,000 roared him over the line when he won the 5,000m in the 2012 Olympic Games. It was even more stunning as it came just days after he retained his 10,000m title.
He sprinted into the history books – and again four years later at the Rio Olympics – when he retained both titles for an unprecedented ‘double double’.
Although Farah has confirmed he is retiring from track competition, we are likely to see him compete in marathons around the globe. He made his debut in the 2014 London Marathon, finishing in a very respectable eighth place – yet the perfectionist Mo was said to be disappointed.
Usain Bolt – Fastest man on the planet
More than 100,000 fans are expected to watch Usain Bolt’s final 100m race – plus many millions around the world watching live on TV. But what is the magic behind the man, and why is he such a superstar? This is an athlete who has won every race he has entered, whether the Olympics or world championships, since 2008, including the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at three consecutive Olympics.
This larger-than-life character is always a prize draw for any event on a celebrity scale – the build-up and hype are intense.
Sports commentators and scientists say Bolt is so fast because his legs are so long, and he takes longer and more powerful strides than those of his competitors. But it’s not even the manner of his huge stride that makes him so astounding, but the way he crosses the line in such a carefree style. Remember Bolt beating his chest after breaking the world record in the Beijing Olympics?
Memories like that will live forever for us all.